First, I have to tell you that 12 years ago my husband and I went on our first date (kind of a real date, kind of a "just friends" date and a double-date): Sioux City Musketeers hockey game and McDonald's; I ordered a fish sandwich and fries. I sat with my hands on my knees the entire night because I wanted him to hold my hand so badly, but he didn't...until we were half-way home. Just a little tid-bit of my love-life. :)
Cinnamon Coffee Cake. Then headed to church at Voice of Calvary Fellowship for services at 8am. Reverend Neddie Winters preached on the free gift of salvation and it was a wonderful message. It was kind of sad going to VOC Fellowship because the church has really shrunk in size and a lot of our old friends have moved on to other churches. They were the first racially integrated in church in Jackson so it's sad to see that little church struggle as all of our friends have left and joined other churches.
One of the churches that our friends have migrated to is Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Jackson. What a great.church! It was so wonderful to see our friends singing in the choir just like the "old days." :) The church was so multi-cultured. It was a delight to my heart to see all the colors blended into God's holy people, dearly loved. It was a bit of heaven. And I'm not just talking about skin-tone. I'm talking about the spiritual culture of the church as well. To see the worship progress with quotes from John Calvin, to some quiet "Amens" from the crowd, to the choir boisterously lifting praise Almighty God, to the college and high school students filling the pews, to the gray heads that bowed in prayer, to the reading of Old and New Testament Scriptures, to the singing of popular worship songs and hymns. It was a beautiful church that is making strides not only racially but also spiritually. It was just indescribable the feeling of that church. It was a piece of heaven.
Pastor Campbell shared a message with us on the Omniscience of God from Hebrews 4:12-16. And it was powerful. Omnicience of God is something that a lot of us Christians know but it's not like we think about it a lot. God knows everything: about Himself, everything actual and possible (doesn't have to learn), about us - whether we want to admit it or not. It's easy for us to know that God is omniscient, but it's hard to really believe it.
Believing that God sees us nurtures sobriety - and not in the alcohol/drug sense. Sobriety - sober. Believing that God knows everything gives a seriousness to life. This sobriety means that we believe that we can not hid from God and we can not manipulate Him (to make ourselves feel better or to get what we want). Hiding from God is sin. And God sees our supposed confession without repentence. He knows when we are not being authentic. "There is no right to privacy in God's constitution." :)
Believing that God sees us nurtures sanctification. It causes us to become more purposeful in our pursuit of holiness. "Here's your motiviation: I SEE YOU" - God. We must give an account (vs 13). This is not a picture of a vindictive father. We see in verse 12 that the sword cuts to the deepest part of us, parts of us that we can not separate, where even we don't know what is happening (that we're sinning). How do we turn that sword from judgement to healing? How do we open ourselves up to that kind of penetration? We need to praise God that He really sees us and reaches down in there to heal our sinful hearts.
Believing that God sees us nurtures supplication. That fact that God sees us shouldn't make us run away but run into His arms because of what Jesus has done for us (vs 14-16). He understands our weaknesses and our struggles. He covers us and sees us through our sorrow. He is the perfect covering for our sin and we needn't hide like Adam and Eve. We must boldy go to him (with confidence - as Rev. Winters preached early in the morning), not with arrogance. Arrogance is thinking we can "do it ourselves" and we don't need Him. Every moment we have access to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. God looks at us because He wants us to be a reflection of His Son, not to smack us around. He sympathizes with our weaknesses but in our weakness we must come to Him. His is a love of mercy and of grace.
See, I told you it was really good. :) I just thought it was great to know that God knows Himself, because there are times when I don't know myself. Why am I crying? I don't know. :) Why did I just do that? I don't know. And the fact that God doesn't see us so He can cut us and wound us, He uses His sword with skill to heal us and remove the sin in our lives. And it may hurt but God offers healing through His Son, Jesus Christ and understands that we are weak. But at the same time, it's serious business. God seeing us should cause us to become serious about our relationship with Him, should cause us to be more purposeful in living like Christ and should humble us enough to boldy go to Christ and ask Him for cleansing and renewal of our spirits and our hearts. Something that I need to be reminded of.
We relaxed for the afternoon and visited some of the places around Jackson that have been dilapidated for years and have been revitalized into a wonderful downtown area. They still have a long way to go but what a beautiful start.
Then we returned to Redeemer for their 6pm service, which was their 6-year anniversary celebration and installation of new elders and deacons. Our friend, Arthur Phillips had a solo and what a solo it was. He played piano and sang, while three young men accompanied with bass guitar, drums, and organ. Beautiful!
Because it was an anniversary celebration, one of the founding members came up and shared about how the church was started and the purposes behind it - a multi-cultural church. It was a wonderful testament to the healing and reconciliation that is happening in the South. It was a blessing to hear her heart and how the church has grown in the process. Hearing about the background and see the passion of these godly people spoke to my heart.
And the choir was inspiring. So energizing. The visiting pastor, Reverend Wy Plummer (African American Ministries Coodinator) said he needed a little time to calm himself after worship and even asked, "Am I really in a PCA church?!" That comment produced lots of chuckles. Another testament to the multi-cultural aspect of this church (racially, spiritually and in worship).
Rev. Plummer's message was based on Psalm 51 and was titled, "Repentance as a Way of Life." He commented on how this may seem like a heavy message for an anniversary celebration but he told us it wouldn't be too heavy. :) This Psalm was written by a repentant David after he was rebuked by the prophet Nathan for killing Uriah and sleeping with his wife, Bathsheeba. It's a wonderful description of how repentance should work and how it can be a growth experience for us.
David expresses how his sin has caused tension in his relationship with God, and that grieves him. And we should be grieved when we sin against the Holy God. But we need to learn to hate our sin instead of beating ourselves up. God doesn't judge us because he's already judged Jesus and that sin has been paid for if we have a personal relationship with Him.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We need to confess our sin, and tell God "I have sinned against you" and focus on change. True repentance produces the fruit of evangelism (revival). Our story of sin and forgiveness involving life-change is not a time of sorrow but of joy as we see God's love and grace. It's a blessing to share our "story" with others as they may be struggling in their sin. We offer hope as repentance is the gateway to a joyful life with Christ.
It was a very powerful sermon and Rev. Plummer related it to the work in the church. How the sins of the past have been forgiven and how we need to seek out the hope that is offered through reconciliation and repentance. It was a blessing.
And I didn't think I could ever get emotional about installation of new elders and deacons but I was moved. To see generations of hate and fear vanish as both black and white men embraced as they accepted the new church leadership was so moving. To know that there is true forgiveness, love, and joy was a picture of heaven and the hope we can have that one day there will be true peace between all men (and women). :)
It was a busy day full of spiritual enlightenment and my heart was renewed. That's why it's taken me so long to post about this because so much of the day struck my heart. I think my husband would have enjoyed the time at Redeemer as he has a passion for multi-cultural ministry. It was truly a blessing to hear the Word of the Lord.